- Date published: 7th August 2012
- Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s US
- Format: Paperback, 404 pages
- Series: Throne of Glass, Book 1
- ISBN 13: 9781599906959 ISBN 10: 1599906953
- Categories: Fantasy
- Goodreads / The Book Depository / Booktopia (AU)
- Source: provided by the publisher via NetGalley for review
- Challenge: 2012 Debut Author Challenge
After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.
Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her … but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best. Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another.
Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.
I have been watching the emergence, or perhaps re-emergence is more accurate, of high fantasy marketed to a YA audience with great interest, and was excited to read Throne of Glass for this reason. I want to tell you this is one of the best books I’ve read this year, but I feel that there is a lot of potential in the story that isn’t explored.
While Celaena Sardothien is both strong, intelligent and beautiful – everything you look for in an assassin apparently – she has to be one of the most annoying characters I’ve read about. She is vain and entitled, with no real personality except one of extreme haughtiness. Her past isn’t explored well – we know she was trained by one of the best assassin’s in her world, and at seventeen was notorious enough for everyone to know her name – but we’re never told how she feels about being an assassin, what her first kill was like, what she plans to do if she wins and becomes the King’s Champion. Instead we are regaled with descriptions of the gowns she wears, the myriad of ways she could hurt/maim/kill someone (but never actually does), and her simpering thoughts on her love life. I feel her character lacked sufficient depth for me to believe in her – she is conveniently an assassin because the author felt this would make for a kick butt heroine, and there is not enough exploration of this to create a substantial character.
The other two major characters in the book are inevitably male and vying, however subtly, for the heroine’s affections. Celaena is the world’s best assassin – she was imprisoned in a mine and left to die because of her talents – but neither of these men show any fear of her. I felt they were almost patronising to her, as if they couldn’t really believe someone small and, dare I say it, female, could actually be any threat to them. Within a few weeks of her residing in the castle, both the Crown Prince and the Captain of the Guard are pining after her! I have no problem with romance, but I feel that any person with any sense of self-preservation would stay the hell away from the best assassin in the world, but here are two otherwise intelligent men, trusting Celaena within a few days of knowing her. Even worse, when Celaena begins training with Captain Westfall, she loses to him. I understand that she is weak from her experience in the mines and isn’t doing her best, but that scene set the tone for the rest of the novel, where she is good, but not that good. To be honest she was just an assassin in name for most of the book.
Since most of the ‘action’ in the book takes place inside a castle, there is admittedly little scope for world building. What did come across is that the world Maas has created is complex, with a range of cultures nations who are being slowly wiped out by the very King Celaena is competing to become a champion of. One of the most striking characters we meet is Princess Nehemia, the Eyllwe princess, who is everything Celaena isn’t – likeable, assertive in her rights without being pushy or whiny, and beautiful without demanding praise. It’s always sad when one likes a supporting character more than the main protagonist. I feel that there is a lot more to be learnt about this world, both in its social aspects and the intriguing magic that exists in it (which, disappointingly, we only got a glimpse into).
There is enough suspense in the plot to have engaged me and compel me to read the whole book, but I figured out what was going on much quicker than Celaena and then had to spend the next sixty or so pages watching her make stupid decisions until she figured it out too. I was also hoping for a lot more fighting and, yes, killing in this book, but found it sadly lacking. While Celaena spends a lot of time thinking about all the different ways in which she could kill or maim a person, she really has two fight scenes in the book, and both failed to live up to my expectations.
I can’t really convey how disappointed I am that I didn’t enjoy Throne of Glass more. Even in light of it being a debut novel, there are too many lacklustre qualities in the book for me to honestly tell my readers it is worth their time. Perhaps the world would have been clearer to me if I had forked out the money to read the four prequel novellas that were released prior its release, but no book should rely on novellas for world building. I would have enjoyed a stronger heroine who actually assassinates, heroes who reacted sanely to her being an assassin, more exploration of the system of magic that permeates the world and a more complicated villain. There are many, however, who have enjoyed this book, and I’ll admit that perhaps I had too high an expectation going into it.